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How to Dress for Family Photos


Portrait of family outdoors, close up
Uwe Krejci / Digital Vision / Getty Images

1. Location

Location can help you narrow the selection. Foremost, if the photo shoot is outdoors then be sure to dress everyone with the weather in mind. Where looks are concerned, pull from or contrast with your surroundings. Consider style as well as color.

Busy scene? Go for simple, solid clothes. Basic backgrounds can handle bolder contrasts and prints.

For outdoor scenes, consider season. Earth tones look great in photos highlighting autumnal foliage; bright colors play off of spring blooms beautifully.

Regardless of background, avoid garments with logos and text unless the item is an intended focal point. They distract from faces and look awkward when cropped. Shoes should also fit with the overall look, so skip the light up character sneakers.

2. Use What You Love

In a race to photograph your child in a family heirloom or other favorite outfit before it's outgrown? Have the perfect top to highlight your daughter's blue eyes or flatter your own features? Coordinate other family looks around that prioritized piece. Be sure to dress each family member in clothing that looks and feels good to them.

3. Color Palette

Choose a few colors to focus on. A foundation of neutrals with one pop color is easier to pull together. Stick to solids for the most part, with plenty of layers, textures and a print or two for interest.

Extend your photo shoot wardrobe options by opening up all closets to all family members. Mom's red scarf may be just the thing to tie Janie's look in with the rest. Also look at your belongings with new eyes -- could jacket be worn inside out to reveal the lining color?

4. Purchase Coordinating Looks

To simplify the coordination process, buy pieces from the same children's line for each kid. Many stores and brands have collections that highlight the same patterns and colorways on multiple styles in the line. Pair statement pieces with basic solids from your kids' existing wardrobes.

Janie and Jack and Bonpoint are a great resource for kids' wardrobe inspiration. J. Crew has coordinating looks for Mom and Dad, too.

5. Don't Match

Gone are the days of outfitting everyone in denim bottoms and white tops.

Subtle repetition of color pulls a shot together without appearing contrived. For example, Dad's blue sweater relates to Junior's blue stocking cap and Janie's blue shoes. The color bounces around different levels of the photo. The look wouldn't be appealing if they were all wearing blue tops.

6. Be Real

Don't purchase entirely new ensembles just for photos. It's okay to freshen your looks or dress everyone in their formal best, but be true to your family's style in doing so.

If your family members have a wide range of clothing preferences, try to find a common thread or make a few concessions in an effort to tie the looks together. For instance, if you decide on a formal photo and your daughter isn't thrilled at the idea of wearing a dress, consider letting her wear leggings underneath.

It's especially important to let the kids be themselves. An accurate depiction of life as it is will mean more than a perfect illusion.

7. Lay It All Out

Take the outfits you've pulled for each person and lay them all out together. Does the combination look pleasing to the eye? Does it need another pop? Have a few accessories on hand and swap things around until it looks right to you. This is much easier to do than dressing and undressing the kids!
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